Mardi Gras in The United States - Texas - Galveston

Galveston

Galveston, Texas is home to the largest Mardi Gras festival in Texas attracting up to 200,000 revelers to the island each year. The celebration in Galveston dates back 1867 when it consisted of merely a masked ball and a theatre performance of Shakespear's "King Henery IV." The emergence of rival Krewes the "Knights of Momus" and the "Knights of Myth" created the first extravagant Mardi Gras celebration in 1871. The island tradition now includes many night parades, masked balls and exquisite costumes. The current Mardi Gras was revived in 1985 by George P. Mitchell; unlike its New Orleans counterparts, there are no celebrations held on the Monday prior to Fat Tuesday. Since 1987, the Galveston Park Board has managed the event despite its struggles and successes. Prior to Hurricane Ike, promoters from the Galveston Park Board usually charge admission fees on the first weekend during the Mardi Gras season kickoff. Around 2007, the Park Board slashed $800,000 in their budget due to budget deficits where they decided to drop the admission fee for the 2008 season along with live music performances. After Ike's devastation on Galveston Island, there was no admission charge in 2009 and 2010 - it was believed at the time that Mardi Gras! Galveston was becoming like its New Orleans counterpart with no admission revenues imposed. An editorial by the Galveston County Daily News in 2007 suggested that Mardi Gras should be managed and operated like Dickens on the Strand as a manageable event under a nonprofit like the Galveston Historical Foundation similar to the Port Arthur, TX Mardi Gras (produced by Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas, Inc). Around April 2010, Galveston businessman Mike Dean, who runs Yaga's Entertainment, Inc. (the producer of the annual Galveston Food and Wine Festival and Chili Quest Festival), entered into a bidding process to become the new Mardi Gras promoter from 2011 – 2015 under a five-year contract, made official on November 18, 2010 as voted on by members of the Galveston City Council. The admission fee has returned – which now includes both weekends prior to Fat Tuesday despite the hiring of 30 security officers to augment local law enforcement. Statistics from the Galveston Convention and Visitor's Bureau have stated that with the admission fees for both weekends, crime has dropped 50% and Galveston Police Chief Charles Wiley is backing the admission fee despite opposition from Downtown Galveston businesses on The Strand and Mechanic Street. Revelers and vendors who usually frequent Mardi Gras on Galveston Island have concerns that the admission fee will bring fewer attendees along with financial uncertainty when the Park Board sold admission tickets prior to the 2008 season. The March 5, 2011 Knights of Momus Parade attracted 20,000 revelers within the Strand while the crowd estimate during the entire Mardi Gras season is 250,000. Vendors and Downtown Galveston businesses have reported a drop in their sales despite the promoter bringing more live music, parades, and added security which includes metal detectors and bag checks. As a downside, Yaga's Entertainment Inc. incorporated the rules and regulations modeled on Mardi Gras DFW – including a prohibition on professional video and still camera equipment within the Strand Entertainment District. Ticket sales for the first weekend of the 2012 season dropped to 30% during the first weekend despite the numerous complaints vented at Yaga's Entertainment, Inc. - Dean stated that the admission charge will remain indefinitely until the existing 5-year contract with the City of Galveston is up for renewal. Admission pricing at the entry gates averaged $17 where discounted $8 tickets were available from the Yaga's Entertainment Inc. website (www.YagasPresents.com). Decreased ticket revenue was also attributed to the cold temperatures and high winds on the first weekend, and heavy precipitation on the second weekend - changes for the 2013 season would include contingency planning where events can be rescheduled by time shifts. As of January 2013, the $17 admission fee is still imposed by Yaga's Entertainment - one Strand business, Crow's Southwest Cantina, has circulated a petition since Dean is allegedly profiteering but has stated that a free Mardi Gras is unsustainable. Houston TV station KTRK has stated that Mardi Gras! Galveston is becoming too expensive where local merchants are losing out just to pay to be on a public street. Galveston Convention Center and Visitor Bureau chair Leah Cast stated on FOX 26 Houston that charging the admission fees brings in a quality event inclusive of Grammy-nominated musicians and balcony parties. A few Strand-area businesses claim that the admission fee keeps out the undesirable elements - during the February 9, 2013 festivities in the Strand Entertainment District, seven revelers who refused to leave the entertainment district were arrested by the Galveston Police Department during the street sweep where the police clear The Strand of all revelers. Angry revelers threw beer bottles, trash cans, and barricade fencing at the police where video footage were posted on YouTube.

Read more about this topic:  Mardi Gras In The United States, Texas

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